Before Ferrari had arrived in France for this weekend’s race at Paul Ricard, the team had a clear plan for how they were going to beat Red Bull and Max Verstappen in qualifying on Saturday.
But if Leclerc is going to prevail on Sunday, Ferrari may need be even more sharp with their strategy. Especially this final French Grand Prix at Paul Ricard could be the most challenging for teams since the venue returned to the calendar back in 2018.
Having been fastest on Friday and then again at the end of Saturday, one might assume Leclerc would be feeling confident heading into the race knowing how much stronger than Verstappen he had been in the last grand prix. However, with two Red Bulls directly behind him on the grid and no team mate nearby, Leclerc knows he’s got his work cut out.
“I think it will be tricky, because the Red Bull guys seem to be very, very quick in the race simulations they’ve done yesterday,” said Leclerc “We were good in Austria, we struggled a bit more yesterday, but I think we did a significant step up in performance since yesterday so hopefully we can show that tomorrow in the race.”
By Sainz’s own admission, this may be his best start to a weekend all season. Usually, that would make the prospect of a comeback, much as Leclerc achieved in Canada, all the more likely. But Sainz is not convinced he’ll have a simple rise through the field.
“[There’s] a lot of tailwind on the two main back straights – which is where the overtaking happens – which means the DRS effect and the tow is minimal, because the wind is pushing you,” he explained. “So it’s difficult to make it through. Also overheating with the tyres when following another car is not easy, but I will try my best.”
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Red Bull may have strength in numbers at the front of the field, but Verstappen accepts that Ferrari appear to have some inherent advantages around Paul Ricard.
“I think overall we need to look a bit into our high-speed performance,” Verstappen said. “I think overall, whatever wing we put on the car, we’ve always been struggling a little bit in high-speed compared to Ferrari.
“For the Ferraris to be on pole again shows that they have a great car and I expect them to be very quick again. It’s good to have Checo alongside though and we are quick on the straights so let’s see what we can do.”
Behind Verstappen and team mate Sergio Perez sit the Mercedes of Lewis Hamilton and George Russell, split by Lando Norris’s McLaren. Norris was, naturally, delighted to have found himself alongside the third best car on the grid, but felt the result said more about Mercedes than it did McLaren.
“I don’t think it’s ‘overperforming’, but we just performed extremely well today and they probably underperformed and I think maybe tomorrow they will just be a little bit ahead as usual,” Norris said. “But I would love to say we can fight them and I’ll do my best to do it.”
Mercedes team principal Toto Wolff agreed with Norris’s assessment: “Overall, our package is just not quick enough and you can see that,” he said.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
“We have been experimenting with rear wing levels and tyre temperatures. Once we got the new tyres on in Q3, we knew we were going to be the third-quickest, as we have been all season and it’s just not good enough for us.”
As for the kind of race that could play out on Sunday, it all comes down to the two ‘Ts’: Temperature and tyres.
With the asphalt exposed under the raw heat of the summer sun, track temperatures could well be the hottest drivers will have to contend with all season. Unsurprisingly, that puts tyre management at the forefront of concerns on the pit wall – as well as in the cockpit.
“It’s going to be a challenge for everyone,” said seventh-place starter Fernando Alonso. “Tyres are struggling a lot in these long corners with the temperature as well, overheating, graining, everything. So it’s going to be a challenge.
Pirelli’s data tells them that the theoretically fastest route to the chequered flag is through a one stop, likely from mediums to hards. But, as Alonso points out, a revision to the pit lane exit for this year has stretched pit time loss even longer than before, which could have a real impact of Sunday’s strategies.
“The pit lane is the longest of the championship, I think 27 seconds or 28 seconds pit loss,” Alonso explained. “So one stop will be ideal if you can avoid the second 27-second loss. But I don’t know if it’s going to be possible or not.”
Assuming Leclerc keeps the lead off the line – no guarantee with the reasonable length of the run to turn one, notwithstanding Ferrari’s improved clutch – then Leclerc’s first priority will be to avoid the graining troubles that hit Ferrari in earlier races and allowed Verstappen to hunt down and pass him for the lead of the race on track. But as Pirelli’s Mario Isola points out, Leclerc does have a strategic advantage.
“Of the front-runners, Leclerc is the only one to have one set of hards and two sets of medium tyres left for the race,” said Isola. “His direct rivals mostly have two sets of hards and just one set of mediums.” Ferrari appear to have set themselves up to exploit the tyre performance superiority they have enjoyed over Red Bull in previous races.
The sheer performance advantage Ferrari and Red Bull enjoy over the rest of the field indicated the front-runners won’t have to worry about the midfield runners compromising their strategies. Even if Russell passes Norris early in the race, practice pace suggests the top three will just pull away and leave the Mercedes in the dust. A natural window of clear air could organically form by the time the front runners consider stopping, giving them the perfect chance to stop and return to the circuit unimpeded.
Red Bull’s lower wing angles give them a useful speed boost on the straights, but it remains to be seen whether that will come at a cost of inferior tyre life. Friday’s long runs were too short to yield conclusive data.
After perceived strategic errors in Monaco and Silverstone only bolstered Ferrari’s critics, Sainz was keen to use their qualifying tactics as evidence that the Scuderia are more switched on than they are often given credit for. But whatever Ferrari have planned for Sunday’s race, if they successfully overcome the heat and Red Bull’s strength in numbers to keep Leclerc ahead by the chequered flag, it will show they have a real chance of propelling Leclerc back to the top of the championship standings.
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Qualifying times in full
|Position||Number||Driver||Team||Q1 time||Q2 time (vs Q1)||Q3 time (vs Q2)|
|1||16||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||1’31.727||1’31.216 (-0.511s)||1’30.872 (-0.344s)|
|2||1||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||1’31.891||1’31.990 (+0.099s)||1’31.176 (-0.814s)|
|3||11||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||1’32.354||1’32.120 (-0.234s)||1’31.335 (-0.785s)|
|4||44||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||1’33.041||1’32.274 (-0.767s)||1’31.765 (-0.509s)|
|5||4||Lando Norris||McLaren-Mercedes||1’32.672||1’32.777 (+0.105s)||1’32.032 (-0.745s)|
|6||63||George Russell||Mercedes||1’33.109||1’32.633 (-0.476s)||1’32.131 (-0.502s)|
|7||14||Fernando Alonso||Alpine-Renault||1’32.819||1’32.631 (-0.188s)||1’32.552 (-0.079s)|
|8||22||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||1’33.394||1’32.836 (-0.558s)||1’32.780 (-0.056s)|
|9||55||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||1’32.297||1’31.081 (-1.216s)|
|10||20||Kevin Magnussen||Haas-Ferrari||1’32.756||1’32.649 (-0.107s)|
|11||3||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren-Mercedes||1’33.404||1’32.922 (-0.482s)||Missed by 0.086s|
|12||31||Esteban Ocon||Alpine-Renault||1’33.346||1’33.048 (-0.298s)||Missed by 0.212s|
|13||77||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1’33.034||1’33.052 (+0.018s)||Missed by 0.216s|
|14||5||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1’33.285||1’33.276 (-0.009s)||Missed by 0.440s|
|15||23||Alexander Albon||Williams-Mercedes||1’33.423||1’33.307 (-0.116s)||Missed by 0.471s|
|16||10||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri-Red Bull||1’33.439||Missed by 0.016s|
|17||18||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin-Mercedes||1’33.439||Missed by 0.016s|
|18||24||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo-Ferrari||1’33.674||Missed by 0.251s|
|19||47||Mick Schumacher||Haas-Ferrari||1’33.701||Missed by 0.278s|
|20||6||Nicholas Latifi||Williams-Mercedes||1’33.794||Missed by 0.371s|
|Driver||Sector 1||Sector 2||Sector 3|
|Charles Leclerc||22.660 (1)||27.960 (2)||40.252 (1)|
|Max Verstappen||22.814 (5)||27.878 (1)||40.477 (3)|
|Sergio Perez||22.794 (4)||27.969 (4)||40.572 (4)|
|Lewis Hamilton||22.686 (2)||28.224 (5)||40.855 (6)|
|Lando Norris||22.994 (7)||28.272 (9)||40.766 (5)|
|George Russell||22.926 (6)||28.224 (5)||40.971 (7)|
|Fernando Alonso||23.025 (8)||28.270 (8)||40.985 (8)|
|Yuki Tsunoda||23.336 (19)||28.274 (10)||41.090 (9)|
|Daniel Ricciardo||23.170 (12)||28.382 (13)||41.224 (13)|
|Esteban Ocon||23.149 (11)||28.347 (12)||41.201 (12)|
|Valtteri Bottas||23.292 (17)||28.317 (11)||41.175 (11)|
|Sebastian Vettel||23.273 (16)||28.471 (18)||41.458 (16)|
|Alexander Albon||23.267 (14)||28.260 (7)||41.495 (17)|
|Pierre Gasly||23.053 (9)||28.470 (17)||41.511 (18)|
|Lance Stroll||23.263 (13)||28.614 (19)||41.559 (19)|
|Zhou Guanyu||23.509 (20)||28.617 (20)||41.370 (14)|
|Mick Schumacher||23.272 (15)||28.433 (15)||41.409 (15)|
|Nicholas Latifi||23.320 (18)||28.436 (16)||41.708 (20)|
|Carlos Sainz Jnr||22.699 (3)||27.963 (3)||40.419 (2)|
|Kevin Magnussen||23.105 (10)||28.387 (14)||41.112 (10)|
|1||Sergio Perez||Red Bull||Red Bull||339.9 (211.2)|
|2||Max Verstappen||Red Bull||Red Bull||339.8 (211.1)||-0.1|
|3||Mick Schumacher||Haas||Ferrari||335.1 (208.2)||-4.8|
|4||Yuki Tsunoda||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||334.3 (207.7)||-5.6|
|5||Kevin Magnussen||Haas||Ferrari||334.0 (207.5)||-5.9|
|6||Charles Leclerc||Ferrari||Ferrari||333.8 (207.4)||-6.1|
|7||Alexander Albon||Williams||Mercedes||333.5 (207.2)||-6.4|
|8||Nicholas Latifi||Williams||Mercedes||333.4 (207.2)||-6.5|
|9||George Russell||Mercedes||Mercedes||332.5 (206.6)||-7.4|
|10||Fernando Alonso||Alpine||Renault||332.1 (206.4)||-7.8|
|11||Pierre Gasly||AlphaTauri||Red Bull||332.0 (206.3)||-7.9|
|12||Esteban Ocon||Alpine||Renault||331.6 (206.0)||-8.3|
|13||Carlos Sainz Jnr||Ferrari||Ferrari||331.0 (205.7)||-8.9|
|14||Daniel Ricciardo||McLaren||Mercedes||331.0 (205.7)||-8.9|
|15||Lando Norris||McLaren||Mercedes||330.8 (205.5)||-9.1|
|16||Zhou Guanyu||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||330.4 (205.3)||-9.5|
|17||Sebastian Vettel||Aston Martin||Mercedes||329.7 (204.9)||-10.2|
|18||Valtteri Bottas||Alfa Romeo||Ferrari||329.7 (204.9)||-10.2|
|19||Lewis Hamilton||Mercedes||Mercedes||329.6 (204.8)||-10.3|
|20||Lance Stroll||Aston Martin||Mercedes||329.1 (204.5)||-10.8|
Advert | Become a RaceFans supporter and
Over to you
Share your views on the French Grand Prix in the comments.
Become a RaceFans Supporter
RaceFans is run thanks in part to the generous support of its readers. By contributing £1 per month or £12 per year (or the same in whichever currency you use) you can help coer the costs of creating, hosting and developing RaceFans today and in the future.
Become a RaceFans Supporter today and browse the site ad-free. Sign up or find out more via the links below:
2022 French Grand Prix
- McLaren looking into why their starts are “more inconsistent” this year
- Mercedes expect Hungarian GP will ‘expose our qualifying weakness’
- Hamilton and Russell ‘out-performing a car that’s not good enough’ – Wolff
- “We need to decide now”: Inside Sainz and Ferrari’s French GP strategy dilemma
- Television broadcast gave “nonsensical” impression of Sainz radio call – Ferrari
5 comments on “Sainz can’t help Leclerc on race day but have Ferrari given him a tyre advantage?”
Red Pill (@redpill)
24th July 2022, 5:31
I would have to agree, Leclerc is in trouble with him being all by himself and two RB starting next to him. He’ll need to crush the start and blaze ahead enough with low graining to overcome an undercut and probably a overcut.
I guess it’s a problem worth having? I hope he does it and good luck to him.
24th July 2022, 6:44
Sainz’s climb towards the front will be interesting, as will the championship contender battle with Perez in the mix, giving RBR some variation for their strategic options.
24th July 2022, 8:19
Yes, I have to say I was surprised by mercedes keeping leclerc behind without issues in canada, even though ferrari’s strategy wasn’t optimal, there were 2 VSC and 1 SC and they managed to pit in a moment there wasn’t any, so maybe sainz has a better chance against them but I think they will prove tough opponents for a ferrari from the back.
24th July 2022, 8:20
Impressed by the 340 kmh, not many tracks where they reach this speed, imagine if they had used the layout with the longer straight!
24th July 2022, 11:15
Impressive top speeds this year. 207-211mph at Paul ricard? Previous years would be more like 190mph no? Speed trap is at end of first mistral straight. Long but not incredibly so…
Comments are closed.